The Mille Lacs Treaty Case is over, but don't stop fighting for what you believe in.
By Howard Hanson
I'm sure that all PERM supporters were as devastated as I was by the March 23 Supreme Court ruling on the Mille Lacs treaty case. We had all worked so hard and diligently to reach what we perceived as our last hope to save the resources of our state, and had been joined in the battle from concerned citizens all across the country. And I'm sure you know by now that it was a much-disputed 5-4 opinion, with Chief Justice Renquist among those dissenting. Here's how his dissent begins:
"The Court holds that the various Bands of Chippewa Indians retain a usufructuary right granted to them in an 1837 Treaty. To reach this result, the Court must successively conclude that: (1) an 1850 Executive Order explicitly revoking the privilege as authorized by the 1837 Treaty was unlawful; (2) an 1855 Treaty under which certain Chippewa Bands ceded "all" interests to the land does not include the treaty right to come onto the land and hunt; and (3) the admission of Minnesota into the Union in 1858 did not terminate the discretionary hunting privilege, despite established precedent of this Court to the contrary. Because I believe that each one of these three conclusions is demonstrably wrong, I dissent."
In his strong dissent, Justice Renquist goes on to use the words "jurisprudential legerdemain" (sleight-of-hand magic) and "bait and switch" so you can see there were strong feelings and nothing was "cut and dried" about this case so many people called a waste of time and money.
But, like the Monday morning quarterbacking Bud Grant had to deal with throughout his coaching career, it's always an easy but ultimately fruitless exercise to second-guess why we lost. "If only the State of Minnesota had placed more emphasis on the Indian Claims Commission Payments, etc. etc." Right now, there's a better use for the space in this column.
First, I'd like to thank all of you who took the time to become informed on the issues--and then got involved and gave of your time and money for a cause you felt was right. Feel good about yourself, even if you don't feel good about the decision. The highest court in the land has ruled, and we can only hope that our resources will somehow be managed by the awkward combination of DNR and Tribal authority, so that our children and grandchildren will be able to fish and hunt in this state.
I am reminded of an article from February 10, 1997, St. Paul Pioneer Press' in which Nick Coleman wrote: "Around the world, the United Nations is preparing a Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. From Montana to Manila, tribal rights are being reasserted. Minnesota, with a strong tradition of human rights, and lots of nice, theoretical talk, should be ashamed to be in court in 1997, still fighting a retrograde action to deny indigenous treaty rights." Thanks Nick, for making it clear where you stand. At least 4 Supreme Court Justices felt there was another point of view.
World wide, it seems, there is a movement to give back, or take back, the lands and resources in the name of indigenous peoples.
Recently, the media has been filled with stories about tribal takeover of land in Mexico, Brazil, Borneo and Canada. In Mexico, armed and masked Chiapas are running poor peasants out of their villages. Many people have been slaughtered. In Brazil, jungle tribal members are shooting arrows at farmers. In Borneo, just this week, armed tribal guerrillas are slaughtering peasant farmer immigrants and driving around displaying their heads and other body parts hanging from their vehicles in a rather hideous takeover of land. It is all done in the name of social justice, but often the governments are simply "using" the indigenous peoples to channel the resource wealth back to the industries who fund their politics. Timber, minerals, oil, fish, game...the money from all these resources somehow always ends up with industry and government, not the people in whose name it was taken--the people to whom it was supposedly "given" or "returned".
Just this week, Canada gave back 770,000 square miles of land to 27,000 Inuit citizens. The new territory will be called "Nunavet", an area about the size of Mexico which represents a fifth of Canada's land mass. The region has only 27,000 people (85 percent of them Eskimos, or Inuit) in 28 communities. Caribou outnumber people 28 to 1. The New York Times quotes Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who calls the move " the last major change in the country's map", and refers to Nunavut as a "rare and precious opportunity." Other Canadians criticized it as a waste of money and, worse, a dangerous precedent for fostering racial tribalism. "One-fifth of Canada will be put under a government whose purpose it is to represent one ethnic group," an Ottawa Citizen said in a recent editorial. "Canada will have its first Bantustan, an apartheid-style ethnic homeland."
The new Inuit-led government faces enormous challenges. With few industries or natural resources (yet discovered) in the territory, bureaucracy is the only sure source of new jobs to combat the region's high unemployment. More than 90 percent of its annual budget will come from the federal government. There is no lack of southern Canadians who see Nunavut as a well-intentioned but doomed effort, a territory born with almost total reliance on federal money and lacking the experience and skills to be run efficiently. Nunavut's challenges are enormous. It starts out with some of Canada's highest rates of unemployment, alcohol and substance abuse, and suicide. An article in the New York Times quotes a critic who questions the need for one more layer of government. "The federal government has committed $1 billion to Nunavut," said Mike Scott, an opposition member of the federal Parliament from British Columbia and Indian affairs critic for the Reform Party. "That is a staggering price-tag for some questionable gains."
You only have to look at the Canadian economy to see the devastation caused by race-based control of territory and natural resources. Just recently, Ottawa Chief Justice Antonio Lamer gave control of 95% of the British Columbia land mass to 4.9% of the population while writing the majority decision in a treaty lawsuit Delgamuukw vs. British Columbia. This decision will plunge British Columbia's economy and public finances into confusion and dysfunction, according to David Hanley of the Fraser Institute of Vancouver.
Meanwhile, on the Canadian side of Rainy Lake, for the past decade, the Canadian government has been systematically tearing apart its huge sportsfishing, tourism-based economy by turning over control of its territory and natural resources to its "First Nation" citizens. In all these situations, tribalism is promoted, and economics are overlooked. Fish fillets that could be worth $90-$150 per pound if caught by a tourist staying at a resort are gillnetted and cross the border by the truckload for $1-$3 per pound. As over-harvest occurs because of gillnetting, officials then restrict water access to sportsfishing tourists and cut their resource allocation. It is not hard to figure out why the Canadian dollar is now worth only 60 U.S. cents.
Here in the U.S., according to Liberty Matters March 11 news bulletin, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth has ordered hearings into accusations that documents sought in a lawsuit concerning the Interior Department's oversight of American Indian trust funds were deliberately destroyed. Secretary of Interior Babbitt and Treasury Secretary Ruben were charged with contempt of court last month when the agencies refused to turn over records in the case. An audit by the accounting firm Arthur Andersen has determined that the Bureau of Indian Affairs cannot account for $2.4 billion in tribal trust funds.
Two weeks later, the March 26 Wall Street Journal carried a story in which an Interior Department lawyer, Ralph Williams, in a sworn affidavit, claims that "the department's second-ranking lawyer "directed" him to reconcile data in various trust-fund accounts and told him that any information that didn't fit with Mr. William's analysis "could be purged from the files."
According to a series of articles in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Bureau of Indian Affairs is our most corrupt federal agency. If $2.4 billion were missing from any other place in the public or private sector, people would be in jail. What is scary to me is that the Clinton administration, his Justice Department, our own Senator Wellstone who sits on the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, our own former Governor and Attorney General, and five members of the Supreme Court are all perpetuating this corrupt federal Indian policy agenda.
We must not give up fighting injustice and corruption in our government wherever it exists. Edmund Burke, the famous British House of Commons member who died just over 200 years ago, claimed that "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for enough good men to do nothing." I've always believed that and, in my view, there are still plenty of battles to be fought, especially with regard to our BIA and failed Federal Indian policies.
PERM is the only organization educating and protecting the citizens of our state from these corrupt and lawless agendas.
There are enough value-oriented citizens who will gladly give us their support once they learn the true facts. PERM has done great things in its six year existence and can do many more with your continued support. Grass roots is hard work, but we can be thankful that we live in a country where we can effect change.
PERM was formed to protect the interests of the private citizens in this case. The Landowners are still parties to the ongoing management process and if the State or Bureau of Indian Affairs attempt to give the Chippewa more than was awarded, or if they harm the resource, they can be sued under a civil rights action. Thanks to PERM, this decision is not a total disaster for the citizens of the state.
Let's start by demanding that our elected officials abide by their oaths of office and abide by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Tell all of your friends to join PERM today. This battle is over, but the war for equal rights and the resources continues.